“Buying a gun is like buying underwear: You’re not sending anyone else out to do it, so why are you going to take some guy down the street’s word on which gun to buy for yourself?” Mary Anne Peters rhetorically asks over the phone last week.
Peters has taught conceal-carry courses since 2013 and was an instructor at BullZeye Shooting Sports before cofounding Pro Gun, LLC a little more than a year ago. With the rise of online shopping across all markets, including gun sales, Peters says they’re focused mostly on customer service and education nowadays, particularly among women.
“I think women are pretty much completely underserved by the male community in general but especially with firearms,” she says. “It’s still an old-school mindset wherein women should shoot revolvers—if we should touch guns at all. I’ve been in the military and worked in law enforcement since the mid-‘80s and that attitude has never changed, and it really bothers me.”
Peters literally knows guns inside and out. And she’s used to being the only woman in the room when it comes to firearms. She started volunteering with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department in California in 1984, and then learned how to repair guns after enlisting in the Marine Corps. So she’s developed a thick skin for sexist comments and mindsets. For women who might already be intimidated by firearms, Peters has created a comfortable space to learn at her coed Conceal Carry Class, scheduled for Sunday. “Women are so much easier to teach, I’m tellin’ ya,” she quips. “They have questions and they listen!”
North Carolina’s conceal-carry courses are required to be eight hours long, are an overview of the laws, permitting process and basic information and instruction on the firearms themselves. Plus, they are required to have range time.
“Specifically for women it’s giving them the comfort level to ask questions to find out what works best for them,” Peters adds. “Again, men might say, ‘You should use a revolver,’ or ‘you should shoot this cute little 22’ . . . and that’s just [their] opinion that’s not really based on anything.”
It’s becoming more common for manufacturers to make guns geared toward a feminine market, too—making them smaller, more lightweight, and even pink. While the style might appeal to women, there’s not much thought into function. In other words, according to Peters, “It’s going to suck to shoot.”
“With those teeny, tiny lightweight guns you’re going to feel all that recoil and it makes it harder to control,” she explains. “I’m actually certified to put coating on a firearm and can make it pink [she says with a hint of cringe] if you want it. But I don’t think a firearm should be purchased because they’re pink and pretty. It should function properly!”
One of the common reasons women come to Peters’ classes is living alone. Whether older women who have lost a spouse or younger adults who’ve moved out on their own for the first time and don’t feel safe. It’s not necessarily that each student will in fact carry a concealed weapon as much as they want to have a firearm in their house and want to fully understand what their rights are in doing so.
“But everyone should learn how to be safe with guns,” Peters offers. “Even if you don’t like them. If for some reason you ever come across something, you should at least know how it functions and how to be safe with it. . . . We had a lady who brought [in a gun] after the hurricane and there was actually a live round stuck in it. She didn’t know how to check and she didn’t know anything about it when her husband just told her to take it over to the shop because it got wrecked in the rain.”
Sunday’s class lasts from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., with lunch provided. If folks are interested in purchasing a gun for conceal and carry purposes, Pro Gun encourages them to take the class first, as they have several to test fire (students just buy ammo).
“I think people understand the laws themselves,” Peters notes. “It’s the actual carrying [a gun] out on your person and being comfortable with that and understanding that there’s more to conceal/carry than just learning those laws, there’s actual training and practice after the fact. Just like when you get your license to drive a car, you don’t just let the car sit in the garage for five years, then jump in it and drive off. . . . It’s not just ‘oh, I have a gun, now I’m safe.’”
“The constant theme throughout the day is that after we teach you this, you need to practice,” she continues. “Whether coming out to Ladies Night or private lessons, you need to come out to the range where you can work on skills.”